Cake in the office is as harmful as secondhand smoke, says U.K. food official



The office cake culture where somebody gets a cake and you are tempted to have a piece is actually harmful for the health, believes Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the UK Food Standards Agency.

Speaking in her personal capacity, Professor Jebb said that cake-in-the-office is as harmful as secondhand smoke.

“If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them,” she told the told Britain’s Times newspaper.

She emphasized on a supportive environment and noted that offering sweet desserts at the workplace influences the health of people and prompts them into making unhealthy decisions.

Sharing lunch is common at workplaces

Exchanging foods like biscuits, cakes are common at workplaces. It is seen as a regular workplace tradition as it promotes camaraderie among colleagues.

“[It] comes from a place of generosity and kindness, wanting to share,” she said. “There’s something very important about sharing food with colleagues,” Lou Walker, who authored a report on office cake culture, told BBC 5 Live.

Obesity is on rise

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN health agency report highlights the prevalence of this condition in both children and adults.

The fundamental cause of obesity is an imbalance in the calorie intake and expended. The WHO cites: an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars; and an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization are the two major reasons for rise in obesity cases globally.

Lunch box discussions matter

This reminds us of the several times when we talked over healthy foods, had bites of besan chilla, or munched on dry roasted beans in the office. This is the first time those lunch box discussions seem trivial and the content inside the lunch boxes have mattered.

From having discussions on native foods to preparing a list of the meals that are supposed to be directed to the house help, several times we engage in healthy discussions with our colleagues but haven’t actually put more thought into it.

If a sweet treat can prompt you instantly to have a bite, a healthy diet can guide you too (if not at the same level of enthusiasm).

Office hours, which is ideally 9-10 hours of a day, is a big part of daily life albeit the “leaving for home” feeling minimizes its impact on our life. We develop close bonds with our colleagues which is reflected on our good morning wishes, silly jokes and of course offering treats.

Ways to make office treats healthier

1. Discuss about natural and organic foods

2. Engage only in occasional conversations on the best food outlets

3. Plan “what’s for dinner” or “what’s for breakfast” with your colleagues

4. Exchange indigenous and traditional foods in office group chats